Learning Mathematics Successfully: Raising Self-Efficacy in Students, Teachers and Parents

reviewed by Cory A. Bennett– September 28, 2020

Title: Learning Mathematics Successfully: Raising Self-Efficacy in Students, Teachers and Parents
Author(s): Clark J. Hickman & Helene J. Sherman
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 164113738X, Pages: 198, Year: 2019
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Learning Mathematics Successfully: Raising Self-Efficacy in Students, Teachers, and Parents dives deeply into the theories behind self-efficacy and examines how students, teachers, and parents build on and influence each other. Even though the word “mathematics” is in the title of the book, this is one resource that is highly applicable to other content areas or non-mathematics education courses. Many of the examples provided and the specific scenarios discussed are within a mathematics context, but the level of detail and breadth of sources used to outline and convey the dynamic interaction between and within the learning triad of students, teachers, and parents in raising self-efficacy will be beneficial for teachers across grades and content areas.

The authors state that this book is intended for pre-service teachers, and there is certainly much here for pre-service teachers to consider as they move into their profession. However, the depth and complexity of each chapter may be overwhelming for some pre-service teachers due to their limited experiences working within the aforementioned learning triad. That is, without a wealth of experiences to draw from, the multi-faceted theoretical discussions may not be fully understood. With that said, this same depth and complexity also provides wonderfully written descriptions, with numerous tips and resources, of the importance of attending to students’, teachers’, and parents’ self-efficacy. Essentially, Learning Mathematics Successfully may be intended for pre-service educators, but the rich and comprehensive discussions within and across chapters may be difficult for some within this group to fully digest and appreciate, and will likely be of more use to those who have sufficient experiences working with students, teams of teachers, and parents.

However, there are several audiences besides pre-service or novice teachers, who have different roles and responsibilities in the larger school system, that would benefit greatly from Learning Mathematics Successfully. Some of the more obvious and immediate audiences would include mathematics teacher educators and teacher leaders (e.g., administrators, instructional coaches, educational consultants, or experienced grade level/departmental leads). Graduate students in education would be another prime audience to consider. For each of these groups, this book offers a wealth of information to help guide their work in supporting student learning. For example, the chapter on “Attending to Professionalism” balances the discussion between the actions and beliefs individual teachers can take to further develop their own self-efficacy and considerations for supporting the collective self-efficacy of a grade level, department, or entire school; work that is highly relevant and applicable to administrators.

Learning Mathematics Successfully begins with a wonderfully rich, yet dense, discussion on the foundations and historical developments of self-efficacy. Particular attention is given to the four primary sources of self-efficacy (enactive mastery, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological states), which are referenced and revisited in more detail throughout the book. Ultimately, this discussion serves as a good summary for those who may have learned about self-efficacy previously as well as a succinct introduction to key concepts and theories for those who are still developing understandings of the role and impact of self-efficacy in learning.

As the reader progresses through Learning Mathematics Successfully, special attention is given to understanding the nuances for developing and supporting self-efficacy for each group in the triad. Given the wealth of information and the complexity of the concepts discussed, within each section it may be helpful for some readers to collaborate with others and focus on one section at a time. That is, it may be easier for some than for others to fully understand the concepts and implications, then develop actionable steps to further develop self-efficacy. Additionally, each section comes with focused discussion questions that will help guide this kind of collaborative work, thus making it easier for groups to attend to key considerations.

Furthermore, each chapter of Learning Mathematics Successfully provides numerous examples, tables comparing different perspectives, and bulleted lists that allow the reader to make clear connections between the theories discussed and the practical implications within various contexts and for different groups of the triad. There is even a specific chapter devoted to supporting students’ self-efficacy through the use of games, with detailed rules for each game. Additionally, in the section “Mathematical Self-Efficacy and the Student,” there are examples and discussions of activities and strategies teachers might use in the classroom to support students’ self-efficacy. While many of these activities and strategies are likely familiar, are used regularly within many classrooms, and are learned in many pre-service teacher programs, they serve as a good reminder of how commonplace actions and routines can purposefully support the development of students’ self-efficacy.

Perhaps one of the more interesting sections in this book centers on the role of parents in fostering students’ self-efficacy. As educators, we are aware of the critical role parents play in the education of their students, but in many schools the work is primarily focused on what happens within the school. That is, much attention is given to developing rigorous learning experiences within and across classrooms; attending to the social, emotional, and physical needs of students; and to creating or developing systems of collaboration to realize the mission and vision of the school and/or district. However, understanding how to support and include parents in this work is particularly enlightening. As with other chapters, this chapter provides questions for consideration and useful resources. One such resources is the self-efficacy scale for parents that can help teachers and administrators engage parents in meaningful conversations, be it in smaller settings like parent-teacher conferences or in more systematic, larger support programs for parents.

In all, Learning Mathematics Successfully is a well-written book loaded with information and different resources for many audiences. For those wanting a thorough summary of the theories behind self-efficacy, those wanting to understand the specific ways in which teachers and parents can support students in developing self-efficacy, or those wanting to know more about advancing the collective self-efficacy of a school or group of teachers, this book will provide insight into each area. With that said, here are a few suggestions for those wanting to use this book as a guiding resource for raising self-efficacy in students, teachers, and parents. First, consider reading this as part of a book study to better understand the nuances and richness of the information within; it is dense and worth discussing. Second, start by choosing one of the three parts of the triad, as the considerations, actions, and implications for each part of the triad are rich and complex and it may be difficult to move forward in all three areas at once. Ultimately, Learning Mathematics Successfully is a comprehensive resource for educators with different roles and responsibilities within the school system to support the learning of mathematics.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 28, 2020
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23447, Date Accessed: 10/13/2020 9:43:26 PM